“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
— John Wooden
What’s a good reputation worth, really? Well, I found it to be pretty damn priceless as a kid.
I didn’t precisely excel at school, my grades were decent enough and I didn’t bother my teachers too much.
The “problem” with that was that I was also granted the benefit of the doubt when it came to causing trouble.
I was bullied both at school and outside it. Something about me made me the magnet of undue negative attention and beatings.
At an early age I’d already had to change schools once because of an incident where I lost it and beat the crap out of a kid who’d been shooting peas at me.
So, since I didn’t want to repeat that experience I simply stopped pushing back. I took the shit and instead acted out my anger and frustrations either at home or on inanimate objects.
I remember being so pissed off at something one day that I took a chair in the corridor and threw it across the hall. Apparently it left some marks and the teacher asked if anyone had seen who did it. Naturally my friend who was there kept his mouth shut. But one asshole (sorry, he really was) in my class raised his hand and said he’d seen me do it.
Here’s where reputation played a big role. This guy had made himself known for being an A-grade asshole whereas I’d been the model student.
My teacher looked skeptically at him and then looked at me and said: “Noooo, he wouldn’t do THAT!”
The asshole looked mortified and humiliated. Here he was about to put me in my place and the teacher refused to believe him. I did my best not to smirk too noticeably.
This gave me the brilliant idea that I could get away with almost anything. So, I started on a minor rampage of random acts of vandalism.
It was a fantastic source of ventilating and I also managed to erode some of that good reputation along the way. In some ways it felt like a relief not to have to live up to those expectations.
Several years later I realized that despite not necessarily caring about my reputation so much I felt like I’d lost direction of who I wanted to be.
I’d thrown out my discipline and character along with the reputation. I must’ve without realizing it thought that they were one and the same.
Slowly I began hanging out with other people and setting myself up in an environment more conducive to practice all those things I’d lost.
The greatest gift I received was that I got it all back while I could choose to both appreciate and ignore unconstructive criticisms and praises.
My self-worth was no longer tied to the opinions of others in the same way as it once was. Yet, sometimes I still find myself getting excited and seeking the approval of others because there’s still that insecure part of me living somewhere inside.
Have you abused your good, or perhaps bad, reputation to get away with stuff? Would you like to share your story?
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!